Automobile Breakdown and Assistance Services
Exploring the various breakdown options, the legal framework as well as insurance coverage
Automobile breakdowns are quite common, and every driver should, at least in theory, be ready to deal with such a situation. While many know precisely what steps they should take, others have no idea at all. Do you know what you should do and when to do it? Do you know who to turn to? Let’s have a look at the situation here in the Czech Republic.
First of all, there will be a difference between whether your car is registered here or abroad. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the cars that are registered and insured in the Czech Republic. Cars that are registered and insured abroad with companies such as UK insurers RAC or AA have coverage within the Czech Republic. However, as always, it is strongly advisable to consult your insurance company to see what exactly is covered and to what extent.
Mandatory and Additional Car Insurance
Basic car insurance for cars registered in the Czech Republic (povinné ručení) is mandatory by Czech law and avoiding it is definitely not something worth considering. Further coverage depends on the individual insurance contracts one has with the insurance company of choice. With most insurance companies, you receive contact cards to assistance services upon insuring the car and signing the contract. From many insurance companies, even the basic mandatory car insurance includes coverage for road accident damage, i.e. towing the car away and retrieving it.
Where one receives more care and more coverage is usually with the more expensive packages, which insure against heavier car accidents and breakdowns caused by malfunction (usually referred to as havarijní pojištění), coupled with further assistance services. What this also equates to is insurance that covers you from accidents on the road as well as, depending on the contract terms, damage inflicted on the people within the car as well as the car itself. The assistance services tend to cover temporary housing near the place of breakdown/accident as well as costs associated with continuing with the journey. This is something that is worth considering for peace of mind.
What to Do?
If you do break down on the road, be it caused by an accident or by a malfunction, try to get your car away from the road as soon as possible, ideally stopping on the side so as to not block traffic. Make sure that you use the warning triangle, placing it at least 100 meters before the car on a highway and 50 meters on other roads. If possible, it is also advisable to have your hazard lights on throughout to limit any further unnecessary accidents. It is also advisable not to open the car doors more than is necessary and to watch the situation. At this stage, should it have been a crash, do call the Police at 158, as well as the assistance service. In the case of a malfunction, there are three choices – assistance from your insurance company, from a specialized assistance company, or from someone you know, which will probably end up costing you the least.
Be warned that there have been cases of fraudsters pretending to be assistance companies and "magically appearing" at the site without being called. Always call numbers that you have been supplied by your insurance company or ones which you know are associated with professional and honest businesses.
Insurance Companies, External Assistance Services or Friends
Most of the largest insurers in the Czech Republic limit free assistance services after an accident covered by mandatory insurance to anywhere 50 KM away from the place of one’s permanent residence. This, of course, limits the usability of such an advantage for longer journeys. Some insurance companies, due to growing competition, extend this to also include assistance in case of technical malfunction and breakdown, but also to a relatively limited 50 KM. Anything outside of this tends not to be covered, unless purchased as part of additional car insurance.
Usually, assistance in case of a clear-cut accidents results in no-hassle process covered by the insurance. The situation, however, is very different with most insurers when it involves a technical breakdown. You will find that this is not usually covered by mandatory and basic car insurance. This also applies to accidents involving animal impact, which are not too uncommon given the rather forested nature of much of Czech Republic’s countryside. The only way to ensure that this is covered is to purchase additional assistance services.
Essentially, if you do not wish to pay for these extra insurance elements which cover more extensive assistance services, you may consider simply having the contact details to one of the major assistance service companies. Perhaps the largest ones are ABA, ÚAMK, Global Assistance, Axa Asssistance, Generali Assistance, and others. These companies are referred to as the “yellow angels – žlutí andělé”, based on the generally yellow colors that are synonymous with such service cars.
In case you do not have the assistance cards of these companies or do not have a discount as part of your credit card for example, these assistance services can prove very pricey. A simple change of a tire can cost you several thousand CZK. In such cases, virtually everything is paid for and added to the overall bill, which may take the wind out of your sail when it comes to paying. However, such professional services tend to be very quick and effective in ensuring that you can continue on with your journey if needed, by for example supplying you with a replacement vehicle while your own is being repaired.
Finally, you can consider (when possible) the help of your friends or family. It is not overly difficult to tow away a car that has not been damaged much by asking someone close to you to do so. Be aware that there are safety requirements for that and you should first consult someone with experience. Asking someone you know to help you will likely save you thousands of CZK, but it may also be a much more lengthy process and not necessarily one that everyone is willing to undergo.
Legal Requirements for Driving in the Czech Republic
We have already discussed the different types of insurance and associated assistance services with regards to a breakdown. What are also important are the legal requirements for driving within the Czech Republic in the first place. The following are the basic legal requirements that all vehicles going through or registered in the Czech Republic have to adhere to:
- A valid EU driving license or an International Driving License
- Insurance certificate (and Green Card if possible)
- Europlates (Or country code sticker if the car does not have Europlates)
- Motorway stickers, to be able to drive on motorways
- Spare replacement bulbs / fuses
- Warning triangle
- First aid kit, reflective vest, jack, spanner, spare wheel
- Winter tires in winter
- Official country ID or Passport
Further the following need to be taken into account:
- Zero tolerance to alcohol
- Dipped headlights must be on all-year round
- Fines are administered on the spot
Drivers also need to take into account the fact that there is a 12 point penalty system within the Czech Republic. For violations of rules, points are deducted based on the severity. Following loss of all points or a severe multiple offence, the driver’s driving license is confiscated and he/she may no longer drive for a stipulated period of time.
Regardless of whether or not you will ever be part of a car accident or have to face a breakdown situation within the Czech Republic, it is crucial that you understand the possibilities available to you. It is most essential that you have read and fully understand your insurance contracts and coverage so as to avoid any unnecessary surprises and misunderstandings.
ABA – Tel: 1240
ÚAMK – Tel: 1230
Global Assistance – Tel: 1220
Generali Assistance – Tel: 221 586 666
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